Star Trek: Picard: Cristobal Rios Backstory & Connection To Soji Explained
Star Trek: Picard's Captain Cristobal Rios' tragic backstory has a surprising connection to Dr. Soji Asha and the larger synthetic plot. Introduced in Star Trek: Picard's third episode, Rios was framed as a rough and tumble rogue, smoking a cigar with a piece of shrapnel sticking out of his shoulder (more than a little reminiscent of the X-Men's Wolverine, from Patrick Stewart's other longtime franchise).
But Rios would be revealed to be a more complicated character than that initial caricature suggested. For one thing, all the holograms on his ship, La Sirena, look like him, apparently a conscious choice he made to avoid the company of others. He is also something of a fatalist, reading books about existential despair and generally coming off as a sad sack. He's also one of the first soccer fans seen in Star Trek, and enjoyed a romantic relationship with Agnes Jurati before it was revealed she killed Bruce Maddox on behalf of Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
It's been suggested a tragic event involving Rios' time in Starfleet led to his dour nature, and now we know exactly what happened, and how it broke Rios' world in ways even he couldn't predict. Here's Captain Rios' backstory, and how it links to Soji in Star Trek: Picard.
Rios' Former Captain Killed Himself
In Star Trek: Picard's eighth episode, "Broken Pieces," Picard and Soji make their way to La Sirena after their brief respite on Nepenthe with the Rikers. When Rios lays his eyes on Soji, however, he's stunned into silence before snapping at Picard and retreating to his quarters with no explanation. Raffi tries to bring him out of his malaise, but it takes solving the mystery of the ibn Majid to do it.
Before his days as a grouchy freighter captain, Rios was a promising young commander in Starfleet, the first officer of the USS ibn Majid. His captain was Alonzo Vandermeer, one of Starfleet's most decorated officers, and a father figure to Rios. Years earlier, the ibn Majid encountered a small diplomatic vessel on the edge of Federation space, containing two ambassadors. The pair had a typical first contact encounter with the Federation starship, but to Rios' horror, Vandermeer later shot and killed both of the ambassadors. Furious, Rios confronted his captain, who told him he killed the pair on orders from Starfleet Command, and that if he didn't comply they would have destroyed the ibn Majid and killed everyone onboard. Incredulous, Rios pushed Vandermeer past his breaking point, and the captain turned his phaser on himself, ending his own life in such a grisly fashion that it would haunt Rios for the rest of his days.
Rios covered up the incident, ejecting the bodies of the two ambassadors into space and claiming he had no idea why Captain Vandermeer killed himself. He would only last another six months in Starfleet before he was discharged for post traumatic dysphoria. The mystery of Vandermeer's death and the murder of the two ambassadors would hang over Rios like a black cloud - until Soji unleashed a thunderstorm on his head.
The ibn Majid Ambassadors Were Synths
After amusingly interrogating all five of La Sirena's holograms, Raffi eventually learns why Rios reacted so strongly to Soji's arrival - he had seen her before. One of the ambassadors who boarded the ibn Majid looked identical to Soji, and also enjoyed the horrific combination of french fries and peppermint ice cream like Soji.
The reason Starfleet Command ordered Vandermeer to assassinate the two ambassadors was because they were synthetic, and the ban on artificial life in the Federation had already gone into effect. But even in the grim reality of the Federation after the Mars attack, that sort of assassination was an extreme, as was the threat to destroy the ibn Majid with all crew aboard. It turns out the order came from Commodore Oh, head of Starfleet security and a Zhat Vash spy obsessed with snuffing out synthetic life to ward off the coming of a prophesied destroyer.
The (admittedly convenient) revelation that he's already played a major role in Picard's mission makes things all the more personal for Rios, who has to be talked out of abandoning Picard and friends after arriving at Soji's home world. Picard knew Vandermeer a bit, and tells Rios he believed him to be a good man and one of Starfleet's finest. Still fueled by anger, Rios can't quite get past the fact that Vandermeer betrayed his trust, but as Picard explains to him, it was really Starfleet who betrayed men like Vandermeer. And the betrayal wasn't just the murderous order from a traitor like Commodore Oh; the original betrayal was the ban on synthetic life, which was a fundamental distortion of the Federation's principles, not to mention a slap in the face to those who knew and loved Lieutenant Commander Data.
Cris Rios has in many ways been the biggest wild card among Star Trek: Picard's main cast. Raffi and Elnor both have deep, personal connections to Picard and can be trusted without reservation. Agnes has been revealed as a spy, and while she seems to have had a change of heart after actually meeting Soji, she still plans on turning herself in for the murder of Bruce Maddox once the mission is over. Soji herself has finally come to accept Picard as an ally, if not quite a friend yet.
But Rios is a free agent, a gun for hire who's primarily concerned with payment in Star Trek: Picard. He's said he doesn't need another great father figure in his life, after the sting of Vandermeer's betrayal and death. But it's impossible to ignore the fact that he's growing closer to Picard and the crew, and the promising young Starfleet officer he used to be is shining through more often than not. Rios is in many ways the arc of the series boiled down to one man - he's endured horrific setbacks and has walled himself off from the things he used to believe in, but they're starting to shine through the further we get into the mission to save Soji and the synthetic home planet. Rios may not have been looking to become another great captain's right hand man, but fate had other plans for the captain of La Sirena.
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